The Athletic’s Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal reported the Vancouver Canucks are interested in adding a blue-chip defenceman in the 20-25-year-old age (from ‘What we’re hearing about the Canucks’ priorities 17 days out from the NHL trade deadline,’ The Athletic, March 4, 2021).
“Over a 12-18 month time horizon, the Canucks’ priority is to add at least one blue chip young blue line prospect — and ideally two — capable of filling in immediately and emerging over time to help address the back-end, which remains the Canucks’ most significant flaw.”
The two mentioned the Canucks have contacted the Arizona Coyotes on Jakob Chychrun and the Colorado Avalanche on Bowen Byram. The club didn’t call the Coyotes back after understanding what the price for Chychrun would be.
The Canucks’ blue line is led by Quinn Hughes, who is the only defender in the 20-25-year-old range on the main roster. Outside of Hughes, the only other defender in that age with a legitimate shot at playing for the Canucks in the next 12 to 18 months is Jack Rathbone. Therefore, the organization does have a real need for young blue-chip defencemen. Here are four blueliners the team can target:
Along with Chychrun, the Canucks also inquired about Byram. The Avalanche have contracted the Canucks regarding forward J.T. Miller, which has led to the young defenceman being involved in potential trade discussions.
The Avalanche selected the Cranbrook, B.C. native in the 2019 NHL Draft, which was held in Vancouver, with the fourth overall pick. He spent four years in the Western Hockey League with the Vancouver Giants before joining Colorado in the 2020-21 season. He played in 19 games, posting two assists before having an impressive 2021-22 season. Through 18 games, he posted five goals and 11 points but has been out since Jan 11th dealing with multiple brain injuries.
Byram would be an impressive addition to the Canucks blue line as he would join Hughes to create a 1-2 punch on the left side of the ice. There is a risk in adding Byram with his injuries. However, he has returned to the ice and hopefully is on his way back to playing and recovering.
The New York Rangers are loaded on the right side of their blue line with Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba and Braden Schneider. The Rangers have Trouba signed until 2026, while they have Fox locked up until 2029. Therefore, the 20-year-old Schneider will likely need to be traded in order to take the next step in his development.
The Canucks are the perfect team for that as the organization lacks depth on the right side. At 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, Schneider prove to be the perfect d-partner for Hughes. The Canucks could acquire him in a potential trade involving one of the forwards they might trade in Brock Boeser, Conor Garland or Miller.
THW’s Matthew Zator points out the Canucks have a natural trade partner in the Pittsburgh Penguins as both president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin were previously a part of the organization. Zator adds the Canucks could target Penguins defenceman John Marino in a potential trade.
Marino developed into an NHL defenceman with the club after Rutherford acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers in 2019 for a conditional sixth-round pick. He has the ability to play in all situations and would be a welcomed addition to the organization’s top four. He’s in the first year of his six-year contract with an average annual value of $4.4 million. Marino is 24 years old and could be a reliable defenceman for the Canucks to add.
In January, the Province’s Patrick Johnston listed New Jersey Devils defenceman Ty Smith as a player the Canucks’ front office could be interested in adding in a potential trade for Garland (from ‘Flames 1, Canucks 0 (OT): Thatcher Demko carries defence as offence goes silent,’ The Province, January 30, 2022). The 21-year-old was drafted in the 2018 NHL Draft with the 17th overall pick by the Devils.
Through two seasons in the NHL, he has scored five goals and posted 38 points in 94 games. His point total has dipped in 2021-22 as he posted 23 points in 48 games in 2020-21 followed by 15 points in 46 games so far this season. The left-shot defenceman can play on both sides of the ice, although he has played on the left side throughout his NHL career. Smith would be a cheaper option on the Canucks’ second d-pairing.
Canucks Need to Fix Blue Line
The Canucks’ blue line is the club’s biggest flaw and should be the front office’s first priority when it comes to fixing their roster. They would have to give up one of their top forwards to rebuild their d-group, which will likely lead to a trade involving either Miller, Garland or Boeser. Additionally, their blue line is filled with ageing vets on expensive contracts.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.